Sell Your Art: Getting Started as a Professional Artist

Make a Living from Your Art
Here are a set of tips for artists who would like to make a living from their art. Unfortunately, very few are discovered purely on their own; one needs to make their art publicly accessible. This is where can assist!

Sell Your Art

Before you embark on following this guide, first consider creating presentation materials so that you are prepared for sales.

As an artist, you should have:

  • Website with Gallery
  • CV
  • Business Cards
  • Elevator Pitch
  • Tax ID Number

You should also be aware that as a professional, you’ll spend a significant amount of time on tasks beyond just creating your art.

Website with Gallery

People expect to “see more” when you reach out and wish to exhibit or sell. Thus, it’s incredibly important to spend time creating a website. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy initially, but it should showcase your artwork and present your CV.

Starting a website today requires minimal effort, but I do recommend getting your own domain. Note that some online website providers own your domain, so if you ever want to leave their system, it could cost you dearly.
To make the domain work, you’ll also need web hosting.

I strongly recommend using WordPress, a free professional system. Most web hosts offer easy WordPress installation, though it requires some effort to learn. However, the time you invest is well worth it, ensuring that you don’t waste time and have a sustainable solution from the start. YouTube has many free videos starting with WordPress and creating a website as a gallery.

My strongest warning is against website builders linked to a company (both free and paid ones). It might lead to significant extra work and costs when you become more serious or want to switch to something else.


Your CV doesn’t need elaborate design; it can simply be a list of places you’ve exhibited, courses or education you’ve undertaken, and associations you’re a member of.

In the beginning, you can dedicate some space to detailing your achievements in each category to provide substance. You can also include exhibitions held privately or in conjunction with courses, etc. The key is to have content to write about.

Business Cards

Business cards might be considered old-school, but they’re essential to have on hand. You might meet the exact person who can propel your career to the next level, so having a business card with links to your website and phone number is smart.

Elevator Pitch

What do you say when asked what you do or sell?

Many artists struggle to convey this concisely, and that’s where an elevator pitch comes in – it’s a brief explanation that can be given within the time it takes to ride an elevator (hence the name).

Tax ID Number

Setting up a tax ID number isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Artists are generally exempt from VAT, and having a business can save you expenses. All materials can be deducted, indirectly supporting your business with state aid.

If you’re savvy, you can avoid an accountant and other major costs by setting up the business as a sole proprietorship. Of course, you need to familiarize yourself with all the implications.

It’s not absolutely necessary to establish a business (before reaching a certain income level), but it’s a really good idea. This way, you present yourself as a professional and emphasize to yourself that you’re serious about it.

Engage in the Community

One of the easiest paths for artists is to engage in the local community. Many cities host events like “Open Doors,” where artists gain exposure through municipal support – for free.

Many municipalities offer free exhibition spaces, both public and private. It could be the local cinema, library, real estate agency, or town hall.

Also, check the list of local juried exhibitions and apply for entry.

Sell to Tourists

Selling to tourists can be a lucrative market, especially if you’re in an area that attracts summer visitors. Money tends to flow freely during holidays, and many are willing to support a local artist.

Areas with many tourists often have guides that feature artists, and they’d love to experience something special, like visiting an artist’s studio.

Ask your municipality and larger tourist attractions if there are opportunities for you.

Apply for Artist Associations

Research the artist associations in your local community or within your field. Being a member of associations can be a significant career boost for all members. You can have joint exhibitions, support each other, hold events, and apply for funding for art projects, without drowning in work as an individual.

Seek Grants

There are numerous grants available for practicing artists, which can help fund a creative process or a project.

Google is easy to use for grant searches.

However, grant applications require a professional CV that shows you’re a serious artist, so it’s not where you should start as a newcomer.

Where Can I Exhibit My Art?

Exhibiting your art is a prerequisite to becoming a professional artist. Art needs to be experienced by others to fulfill its purpose.

The final major part of this article is about where you can exhibit your art:

  1. Contact Art Associations
    The classic way to sell your art is still a viable path for artists. Art associations have various concepts. Some hold exhibitions and, in return, purchase one or more pieces to be raffled among the association members.

Being exhibited by art associations can be a valuable addition to your CV, as it often opens the door to more exhibitions.

  1. Contact Galleries
    Galleries can be a decent way to emerge as a professional artist, but it’s not entirely straightforward.

There are several types of galleries.

Physical Galleries

Becoming part of a physical gallery is a big goal for many artists, but while it might sound like a good idea at first, it can, in the worst case, lead to a stagnant career.

Being accepted into a large professional gallery can be a significant boost, as they have staff who act as your agents, likely giving you a strong push.

However, if you’re accepted into a small gallery that ties you to a tight contract, it could be a significant hindrance – especially if the gallery can’t sell your art.

Galleries often have requirements that you can’t sell elsewhere, for instance, and they usually take a minimum of 50% commission on sales. So, be sure to carefully consider before saying yes.

Online Galleries

There are many online galleries nowadays. Some are more serious than others, but as long as they’re free, I see no reason to ignore the increased exposure. Especially not if there’s an opportunity to link to your own website.

As an artist, you should learn to use Pinterest. Here, you can upload your images and gain more online exposure. Many are finding that Pinterest is evolving into a sales platform, which you shouldn’t miss out on.

Poster Sellers

There are several small online businesses that print posters. It could be advantageous to arrange an agreement with them to sell prints of selected art. Make sure they link to your website, so you gain advertising value along with potential sales revenue.

Own Gallery

Some artists start their own physical gallery, but this is rarely a good business idea. It requires a certain level of fame already so that it’s not just money down the drain.

If your gallery is also your studio, there might be some merit in it, but you’ll be quite restricted by opening hours and interruptions during your work.

Own Online Gallery

Once you’re proficient with WordPress, it’s not that difficult to turn your aforementioned website into an online shop, allowing people to buy your art directly. The main challenge is figuring out how to ship the art and which payment system to use.

Because payment systems can be quite costly, it’s not the best idea to set up your own online gallery until you have substantial website traffic. Or you could establish an alternative system where people pay via bank transfer to your account.

I recommend using a WordPress plugin like WooCommerce. This can provide you with an online gallery and account payment for free. WooCommerce isn’t for WordPress beginners, so make sure you have a good technical understanding before embarking on this path.

Best of luck with your work!

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